We have used 2-aminopurine (2AP) as a fluorescent probe in the template strand of a 13/20mer primer/template (D) to detect deoxynucleoside triphosphates (N)-dependent conformational changes exhibited by RB69 DNA polymerase (ED) complexes. The rates and amplitudes of fluorescence quenching depend hyperbolically on the [dTTP] when a dideoxy-primer/template (ddP/T) with 2AP as the templating base (n position) is used. No detectable fluorescence changes occur when a ddP/T with 2AP positioned 5' to the templating base (n + 1 position) is used. With a deoxy-primer/template (dP/T) with 2AP in the n position, a rapid fluorescence quenching occurs within 2 ms, followed by a second, slower fluorescence quenching with a rate constant similar to base incorporation as determined by chemical quench. With a dP/T having 2AP in the n + 1 position, there is a [dNTP]-dependent fluorescence enhancement that occurs at a rate comparable to dNMP incorporation. Collectively, the results favor a minimal kinetic scheme in which population of two distinct biochemical states of the ternary EDN complex precedes the nucleotidyl transfer reaction. Observed differences between dP/T and ddP/T ternary complexes indicate that the 3' hydroxyl group of the primer plays a critical role in determining the rate constants of transitions that lead to strong deoxynucleoside triphosphate binding prior to chemistry.